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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Traversing the Edge of the Volcano

Richly adorned wayside temple

Today we drove off in our bumpy little Suzuki and managed to navigate using Google Maps along little side roads across to a temple Pura Taman Ayun on the main road to the second volcano.

Small roads crossing from Ubud to Mengwi

This is necessary because Bali is cut with deep valleys from the mountains and all the major roads go north and south. On the way up we spied a small green sign for Jatiluwih a UN heritage set of rice terraces which wasn't supposed to be accessible from the road we were on. The road was a tiny back road with some beautifully adorned rural temples completely more engaging than the big touristic one we had just seen. We followed more small rural roads  having to ask directions several times and finally came upon the rice terraces in in a sweeping view from across a wide valley where there were a bunch of tourists in guided taxi tours but nobody else finding their own way there.

Jatiluwih rice terraces

We then had to try to figure out how to get back across the side of the volcano without tracking back down to the steaming jungle below. I turned up a little mountain side road and found we were following a group of people on a guided tour so we figured the driver had to know there was a way through. we followed over pothole-riddled tracks and little fords until we eventually came out into some villages, at which point we passed the others and stopped to confirm we could still go this way to the summit.

Trace the northernmost wiggly line from Jatiluwih to the lake 
even if it seems to wander everywhere through fords and gullies.

On we went up and up and then up a ridiculously steep road up the volcano's rim, barely making it in first gear. Eventually we reached Bedugul and found we had made it there on the most extreme mountain back road connection possible. Suddenly we found us entering Bedugul from a side road we didn't know existed.

The view from Puri Alam Bali Bungalows

Bedugul was a terrible nexus for Indonesians escaping the tropical heat. No culture. A big mosque. Thousands of buses, restaurants, paddle boats on the lake and expensive hotels. Christine was pretty shaken around still feeling reeling so we headed on to a place called Munduk where the lonely planet said there were a few cheapish home stays.  The road wound up again in a precipitous string of hairpin bends coming to a T where we turned sharply left on a small road and wound on the razor edge of the rim in a pouring tropical rain storm.  The the road wound down and down ever more steeply emerging through a steep forested valley reminiscent of the descent from the Andes to the Amazon in Peru.

Puri Alam Bali bungalos

Then just as it began to get dark we stopped in the rain and found we were right outside one of the bungalows we were hoping to find, with the hostess standing under an umbrella in the rain trying to entice us inside, so we ended up succumbing when she offered us a room with an absolutely panoramic view of the volcano and the paddies and forest below for IR 200,000. The view form the restaurant is even more sweeping, with views both of the volcano on one side and right out past the coast towards Java on the other. 

The sweeping view from Munduk village to the north

Munduk is a little village perched on a razorback overlooking both the volcano and the whole north coastline. It has been discovered by western travelers for its stunning views and capitalized by enterprising hostelliers, but still has the charm of the fringe which you don't find in Kuta or Ubud. The views are superb and above all it's cool after two days of sweltering heat!


Christine is still feeling she has a very tender stomach so I am being forced to eat both the satay pork and the beautifully cooked side of chicken. Hope my stomach survives two dinners!

Lovina beach front

From Munduk, we traveled to the north coast and west to Lovina a beach town become a fringe tourist stop which was one of the few places where there was budget accommodation, rather than expensive luxury hotels. Immediately we arrived we were besieged by a tout trying to get us into his favoured hotels in the hope of taking us snorkeling. In the end we searched around ourselves until a man stepped out from a gateway down a little alley and offered us his beautiful new two room suite with aircon for IR 200,000. The place didn't even have a name much like in the old days of the 1970s.

Next morning there was some kind of ceremony with two young boys in a golden saffron sedan chair borne along by a festive crowd followed by an oceanic parade of men in formal attire on motor bikes.

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